CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (BEN BALCE / Oct 21, 2006) - SENATE minority leader Aquilino Pimentel in a statement yesterday said it is too late for a plebiscite on amending the Constitution as this has been overtaken by preparations for the midterm elections next year.
Pimentel was reacting to claims of the Malacañang particularly Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita that a plebiscite can still be held before the May 2007 polls.
Pimentel said even the Commission on Elections has stressed that it needs at least three months of preparation for holding a plebiscite nationwide.
“By that time, the election process is already in high gear,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel’s statements coincided Cagayan de Oro’s local Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP) confirming Malacañang’s priority—the Charter Change.
PDSP Cagayan de Oro chair Fermin Jarales said that even the Congress leadership has remained Cha-cha the utmost priority.
In a collective meeting here, PDSP Manila Beth Angsioco said that reportedly no other thing except Cha-cha is now the Malacañang’s priority, changing the form of government from presidential to parliamentary.
Earlier, the Supreme Court has said that it will not be able to decide on the petition for people’s initiative for Charter change earlier than the end of October.
“Any high court ruling on the petition can still be appealed by the losing petitioner, which will take more time,” Pimentel said.
On the alternative option to convert Congress into a constituent assembly, the minority leader said this would create a bigger problem.
Pimentel said the Senate would scrutinize every word in any move to amend the Constitution. “But also because time is running out on our legislative calendar,” he said.
He said that when Congress resumes session in November, it has less than 18 session days before the Christmas break begins.
“By that time, members of Congress would be loathe to spend time breaking their heads in debates on whether or not a particular provision of the Constitution should be amended,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel said all congressmen and 12 outgoing senators would be focused not on charter change but on their reelection or on the election of their local candidates.
“There is thus no time for discussing charter change which is just as well because amending the Constitution is not like changing the name of a barangay or municipality. It is much more fundamental than that and deserves the unqualified attention of those who amend it for the good of the country,” the statements said.